While I’m traveling in November, I’m happily sharing some of my favorite blogs from 2009. In the years after I wrote this, our family bought a little cottage in Chautauqua and now spend our summers there. We’re still close to the family in this blog and love spending time with them. Of course Fortunate Harbor has been on book shelves for years now, but I just finished the read through on my newest book, A Family of Strangers. Some things don’t change. But the poster mentioned here? Not sure what happened to it, but maybe it’s time to buy a replacement?

I have my own set of “commandments” to live by.  Not that I take exception with the basic ten.  These are additional commandments, and I’ll confess some of them come from a pop philosophy poster I found in a gift shop.  The poster is happily at home on my study door, and although now that I’m away, I can’t repeat most suggestions verbatim, I do remember a few of the most important.  One, never pass a child’s lemonade stand without stopping, and two, never say no thank you when someone offers a brownie.  (Also, always wave at children on school buses, but I digress.)

I chose this morning to begin my first read through on Fortunate Harbor, next summer’s novel.  Happily at home on the front porch of our vacation cottage, I noticed activity next door.  Our neighbors have had grandchildren visiting all week, and we’ve enjoyed the sounds of children, music, laughter and of course, the occasional sibling/cousin spats.  It makes our stay here more homey, but today a new element appeared.

Today the annual lemonade stand was erected.

Turns out the grand kids sell lemonade every summer, to raise money to benefit the fund that brings programming to this fabulous institution on Lake Chautauqua.  And this year was no exception.  This morning they set up just in time to catch people heading across the grounds to a host of different worship services, and stayed just long enough to catch them on the way back.  I was fortunate to watch the action.

Here’s what I learned on this cloudy Sunday morning.

One–if you build it, they will come.  Of course Kevin Costner told us that already, but the lemonade stand was a good reminder.  Dreaming’s nothing without follow through.  I like that.

Two–take time to encourage children to help change the world.  Never tell them they can’t, because it’s a lie.  Think I’m off base?  Read about Isabelle Redford, then come back and we’ll talk.

Three–Trust the kindness of strangers even as you keep a watchful eye.    While Mom supervised from the porch, I witnessed one man who left two quarters for the children and told them to give the next two glasses of lemonade free.  Those recipients cheerfully did the same.  I stopped counting.  Paying it forward is always a joy to behold.

Four–Assume your efforts will be rewarded.  I’m sure nobody warned my three young neighbors that it was possible no one would buy their lemonade or eat their chocolate chip cookies (which are, in my set of commandments, synonymous with brownies.)  The kids sat at their stand fully expecting to sell out, and indeed they did to a supremely grateful audience, just before the heavens opened and a cloudy day became a rainy one.

Five–Pay attention.  I’m no longer talking about the kids.  They didn’t need that lesson.  I needed it.  Again and always.  Notice all the lovely things around you, wherever you are, whatever you’re doing.  Take time to appreciate the smallest miracles.  The crunch of a homemade cookie, the tang of lemonade, the people who bought food and drink they didn’t need and left far more money than the children asked for.

Life can be difficult, messy, unappealing, terrifying.  And sometimes life is a lemonade stand.  Maybe it’s up to us to mix the sweet with the sour, just the way my young neighbors did. Then share the result any way we can.

8 Comments

  1. April on August 10, 2009 at 9:15 am

    Happiness is..finding inspiration to make a difference in such a young person! So many times it is easy to get discouraged and feel as though we can’t make a difference, but then to read about Isabelle Redford’s story and your young neighbors, amazing! I can tell you, it has inspired me to dust off my knitting needles and get back to knitting for Citizen SAM! Thank you!

  2. Emilie Richards on August 10, 2009 at 9:21 am

    Good for you, April. I’m making a “shawl for peace” through a program here at Chautauqua. The shawls go all over the world to women in war torn countries or women in need. It’s mushroomed from a few to shawls from people all over the country. It’s a joy to be part of something like this, isn’t it?

  3. Ingrid King on August 10, 2009 at 12:27 pm

    What a lovely post.

  4. April on August 11, 2009 at 9:10 am

    It is a joy! I haven’t knitted often over the past 6 months or so, but my youngest is almost 2 now, so, I think it is a good time to pick it up again! Your project sounds like a wonderful one too. Good luck with it and I hope you are enjoying your down time!

  5. mary branham on August 22, 2009 at 9:09 pm

    What makes me the happiest after family and friends is having a big glass of something cold or a steaming mug of tea and a great book.
    That is when I am the happiest.
    My husband and I are about to start the next chapter in our lives. After 43 years of marriage I am retired and he is about to retire.
    We are heading to New England in Oct. and then to our favorite place in Fla. Venice Beach in March.
    So maybe this will be what makes me the happiest.

  6. Michelle on September 9, 2009 at 9:44 am

    Happiness is: being around family and friends and enjoying each others company. My children will also attest to this. We create the most memories when we go to Virginia during the holidays to visit family and just sit around playing board games. Happiness is also being at peace with yourself and your decisions. Each person has the ability to control their happiness the challenge is finding what makes you happy!

  7. Costa R Hill on September 17, 2009 at 9:46 pm

    The thing that makes me happiest is knowing I make a difference in someones life. Be it by hugging my husband after a hard days work, or playing with my baby sister. I love knowing that I made a difference in what might have been a bad day.

  8. Nancy Lepri on November 14, 2018 at 8:15 pm

    What a great articlr! Thank you! ☺

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